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Our History

Maine Audubon traces its history back to 1843, when the Portland Society of Natural History was founded  and dedicated to the promotion of knowledge in the various branches of Natural History.

The Maine Audubon Society (originally the Maine Ornithological Society, founded in 1897) merged with the Portland Society of Natural History in the middle of the 20th century, combining collections and rededicating itself to its common purpose. Today, Maine Audubon carries on that legacy.

In 1986, historian Herb Adams wrote a chronicle detailing much of the early history of Maine Audubon, including two large and devastating fires and nearly two centuries of creative programming designed to get the people of Maine learning about nature. It first appeared in Habitat as a series of articles (reprinted in 1993). Read that chronicle here.

Gilsland Farm has its own unique history. Gilsland Farm and the surrounding shorelands have a long history of human use. For thousands of years they were home to the Wabanakis and their ancestors, perfectly situated for fishing, hunting, and transportation. The arrival of English settlers in the 1630s signaled the end of this era and the beginning of a new one. Land was divided, claimed, turned into grist mills and saw mills. In the mid-1800s, it was purchased by Silas Noyes. In 1911, the farm was purchased by David Moulton and in 1974, his family gifted the property to Maine Audubon. Read a more detailed history of Gilsland Farm here.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has caused Maine Audubon to look inward at its own role in inequity and racial inequality, just as it has for millions of Americans. For the hundreds of Audubon societies around the country, that reflection has included a renewed analysis of the character of our namesake: John James Audubon. Visit our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion page for more and  read this blog post by Andy Beahm, Executive Director.